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  • USA Wildlife Removal Education Guide - Why do Skunks Dig?

Why do Skunks Dig?

If you happen to see a skunk ambling along with his nose close to the ground some evening, it’s a good bet that before long, it will be using its long claws to excavate a shallow hole to access a harvest of grubs, worms or ground-dwelling insects. While these tend to be its favorites, skunks will eat almost anything, with other regular quarry including rats, voles, mice, moles, birds and their eggs, and carcasses as well as a broad range of crawling jumping and flying insects.

Skunks are born to dig. About the size of a medium-size cat, they have medium short, strong forelegs ending in long-clawed fee that are ideal excavators, whether the objective is to harvest a cache of insects out of the soil or to excavate a burrow.

Usually, skunks’ foraging in lawns or gardens results in holes the size of divots, a few inches in diameter, with several small, tell-tale mounds of dirt within a few square yards. But if a skunk is on a quest for voles or some other small rodent in an area of rough grass, the damage can be significant.

In the wild, the animals often den up in burrows built and abandoned by other animals but absent these opportunities, they willingly dig their own. Similarly, in suburban and urban areas skunks will use their digging abilities to fashion nests under buildings and even to access hospitable nesting or den locations by tunneling under building foundations.

All animals have requirements for food and shelter, but that doesn’t mean that you have to provide it. Although they are not often seen during daytime hours and present virtually no threat to humans that don’t bother them, skunks can be a nuisance. Often they will shelter in a crawl space or under a porch for a few days and move on, but if they take up permanent residence, the place may take on their characteristic odor.

The solution is to pull in the welcome mat and prevent their access to your property by closing off access to spaces under the house or outbuildings, first making sure that the animal is out of the den and not a nested mother. Access holes can be closed off with boards, hardware cloth, MF-metal flashing or other materials.

And bearing in mind that skunks are hearty diggers, you may want to install a barrier to prevent their tunneling their way in. Excavate a narrow, trench two feet deep along the foundation and line it with hardware cloth bent into an L-shape away from the building, and fill in the trench. Skunks are persistent, but that should discourage them enough that they’ll move on.

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